Jinking James Segeyaro scored his first NRL hat-trick as Penrith recorded a 28-12 win over Brisbane in Friday night’s clash at Centrebet Stadium.
In a pulsating match between two of the seven sides locked in a battle for the last two finals spots on offer, Segeyaro’s guile proved the difference as he scored from dummy-half twice before adding the sealer in the 72nd minute.
Having danced over the line with far too much ease in the 27th minute, the 22-year-old substitute repeated the dose in the 46th minute when Broncos Dunamis Lui and Lama Tasi bought his dummy like it was solid gold.
Penrith then showed brilliant resistance to defend their 18-12 lead for almost half an hour, before a high shot from Ben Hannant on Panthers skipper Kevin Kingston resulted in a decisive penalty.
Panthers halfback Luke Walsh slotted the goal and two minutes later the match was over when Segeyaro sold more candy to the opposition and trotted past Andrew McCullough and Josh Hoffman.
Walsh kicked the conversion and added another penalty goal in the 77th minute, as the Panthers grabbed ninth spot on the table in front of 8,817 fans.
Penrith face a tough ask to scrape into the finals in coach Ivan Cleary’s second season in charge, with away games against Canterbury and Manly to come.
Brisbane, who suffered their first loss since July 12, could be as low as 13th by Sunday depending on other results in round 24.
Broncos centre Jack Reed was knocked senseless in a collision with Panthers winger David Simmons, while Corey Oates scored a first-half double for the visitors.
The Broncos gave away two penalties in the opening four minutes, and Penrith’s Ryan Simpkins started the scoring following a knock-on from Jordan Kahu.
Kahu fumbled a bomb from Walsh in windy conditions, with the hosts taking a 6-0 lead when Walsh added the extras.
The Broncos levelled the scores in the 19th minute, when Matt Gillett produced the decisive break and a creative one-handed pass to put 18-year-old Oates over in the corner.
Segeyaro sauntered to his first try, but Gillett and Oates combined once again to lock the game up 12-12 at halftime.
Tasi was put on report early in the second stanza for a high hit on Segeyaro, as the Panthers once again pounced when the visitors gave away two penalties in the space of five minutes.